FCEDC surge

6/12/2010

All funding options worth a close look.

At a time of wage reductions, hiring freezes and other budget cuts, not many taxpayer-funded agencies would request four times more funding than they received last year.

Yet that was the pitch from the Finney County Economic Development Corp., which asked the County Commission for $590,000 for 2011, some $465,000 higher than its 2010 budget. (The FCEDC also requested more from the city of Garden City, from $89,000 to $255,000.)

Every elected official should want to make the community more attractive to business and industry, both existing and new. Additional FCEDC funding would go toward a reserve fund to help entice new businesses.

Still, the requests no doubt surprised many, especially as other taxpayer-funded entities hope to simply maintain current funding levels.

Worried about oil and gas valuations, county commissioners are steering toward budget cuts rather than a mill levy increase. Some agencies likely will be asked to do even more with less in the coming year.

If the FCEDC were to receive significantly more funding with others feeling the pain of budget cuts, support for the local economic development force could take another hit.

Local voters twice rejected a sales tax to establish more permanent funding for economic development. Because of that, commissioners must proceed with care when addressing the latest FCEDC request, and vet all funding possibilities.

And, they have to consider the community's long-term health.

In spite of past results at the polls, a sales tax that would fund economic development initiatives with ample oversight by elected officials still warrants consideration. Roughly half the dollars would come from visitors to the county, which lightens the load on local taxpayers.

Finney County recently lost out on good business prospects because other communities had more to offer — a shortcoming that's particularly glaring in a tough economy.

As the economy recovers and competition for those businesses heats up, this community cannot afford to shortchange economic development and hope to remain strong and viable.

The challenge is in settling on a funding plan that's least taxing for local residents now, but still promises to pay dividends in the future.

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